Sheli Heller does something few people do. She works everyday in the same building, sometimes just feet away, from the exact spot where her husband was fatally wounded in what police believe was an apparent robbery attempt.
Joseph Krainc Jr., 33, was closing up on Lowrie’s Run Road on Friday, October 13, 2006 when someone came inside and apparently demanded money.
Minutes later, Krainc lay dying in the parking lot, his killer, gone and so far, unknown.
“He chased them out, and he collapsed in front of the building, but he was shot inside of our building,” said Heller, who goes by her maiden name.
“Everything leads to believe that it was a robbery attempt. It seems there was thought and effort into when and how they did it. They did it right at closing time, on a busy Friday night, when there would be the most cash.”
Heller said the criminal or criminals tried to discourage anyone from entering the parking lot.
“They took the price signs out of yard and created a barrier in the driveway to make it appear the store had closed for the night, they didn’t want to be caught,” she said.
Allegheny County homicide detective Anthony Perry has been working the case almost from the beginning and admits it’s one of the most frustrating he’s come across.
“We really don’t have any leads or anything like that. There’s nowhere for us to go,” he said. “We’re hoping that someone will come forward with information. Any homicide, there’s no statue of limitations, it’s not closed until there is a trial.”
Primarily, the murder of Joe Krainc suffers from a lack of a lack of witnesses.
“No one saw the actual crime. There were people who either left the store right before the crime, or arrived right after the criminal had left,” said Heller.
“The more people are reminded about it, maybe it will prompt someone to start talking.”
Detective Perry said the physical evidence at the scene points to just one person being involved, and he said the shooter may be behind bars for another crime, or dead.
“That’s quite possible,” he said. “To do something this heinous. This probably isn’t their first rodeo. It’s quite possible they wanted money for drugs. But I have no idea what the motive is, but often, in these types of cases, drugs are involved. Drugs turn people into something they are not.”
While Heller is willing to talk about the case in hopes it could result in a lead, she is also moving on, running her late husband’s business and raising their two children.
“I want justice to be served, but at the same time maybe this is still unsolved because God had a plan, that me or my kids couldn’t handle the ordeal of a trial, who knows?” she said.
“I finally realized this is my job, to take care of my family and run this business, and not necessarily find out who did this to Joe.”
Detective Perry said it remains his responsibility to bring Krainc’s killer to justice.
“We never give up hope,” he said. “Any tip, no matter how far fetched, we will go and investigate. And run into the ground to make sure there’s nothing else we can get out of that tip. You want to do justice for the family. It’s not like on TV, sometimes you don’t find someone. It seems as though Joe was truly an innocent victim.”
If you have any information about this unsolved case, call Allegheny County Police at 412-473-3000.